Google Analytics has long offered conversion tracking to help you understand which forms of marketing lead to sales or other converts on your site. The data has been a godsend to internet marketers, even if understanding it sometimes required a bit of Google Analytics training. Sadly, until now, there’s been a fundamental flaw.
Google has just unveiled Multi Channel Funnels for Google Analytics and in doing so, admitted the previous form of conversion tracking used was inadequate in that it would only track the last event prior to purchase.
To give you some idea of how this worked and the problems with it, we’ll take the example of an online shoe shop using multiple marketing channels all tracked by Google Analytics. Previously, Analytics would keep track of what clicks on AdWords, display advertising, organic search, social media and referring sites led to conversions. So, if a user searched for “running shoes” and clicked on your AdWords ad, they would be counted as a conversion for this format.
This provides great data on the effectiveness of the AdWords ad, but what if they only clicked the ad and made the purchase because they’d previously visited your site and read about your product from a link on a social media feed? In the past, because they used another channel before making a purchase, the social media feed would not get credited with any part of the conversion tracking by the systems in Google Analytics that deal with conversion tracking, despite it playing the main role in convincing the customer to make a purchase in this case.
Google Analytics now is able to perform multi channel tracking through a new product they launched earlier this month called Multi Channel Funnels. In this new section of Google Analytics, you can get a better impression of your overall ROI marketing effectiveness by tracking what channel paths are used by users and how long they take to make a conversion after being exposed to an initial channel. This means that if you’ve recently been on a Google Analytics training course, much of the most important part of tracking, which is conversions, has now been superseded due to the new multi channel tracking features.
Using Google Analytics with the old system may have previously given you bad data on the effectiveness of a campaign. Previously, when conducting ROI marketing assessments, the lack of direct conversions from a campaign, say an advert in an email newsletter that didn’t convert, might have led you to consider repeating the exercise as useless. However, it might have been the case that this had built brand awareness that led users to later search for your product and purchase this way, leading Google’s old conversion tracking to believe this was from an organic search. Thanks to the backdating on the reports using data Google has been collecting since January, you can now re-assess previous campaigns to see if the conclusions you made over their effectiveness stand up, now you have the ability to do multi channel tracking.
The only downside about this change is that it has made using Google Analytics that bit more complicated. Whilst much of the new system can be worked out through simply viewing the new reports in Analytics, understanding how to interpret the data might require more advanced Google Analytics training. This comes down to understanding how each channel plays in the overall conversion and thus the return on investment each form of marketing provides.
Below, we provide a quick walk-through of using Google Analytics with some of the new features and how to interpret their data for use in ROI marketing. The Path Length view of Google Analytics allows you to see how many channels users went through before a purchase, as well as the collective conversion value. This is displayed in both raw numbers and as a percentage of overall conversions, presented as a bar chart. Using Google Analytics with this data is particularly useful if you are doing split testing as it shows how effective each version of your site is at making a user convert on an initial visit. It may well be the case that the data here will show that one version of your site used on A/B testing converts more initially due to a more sales-like pitch, but less overall as it puts users off returning. This can be further complemented by testing individual AdWords campaigns for conversion length, so you can see how your ‘off-site’ copy affects your conversion rate.
The next part of this short Google Analytics training to look at is the Time Lag report. The data here shows the number of days taken by a user to convert. This data can be useful if you are using marketing techniques that follow users, for instance display advertising that shows ads to users who have previously visited your site or newsletters that have automatic emails they send to new members after a set number of days. The data here can show you how useful these campaigns are over time and thus allow you to set how long you continue to pay for them before their ROI becomes too low.
For sequential data of the unique channel paths used by users to get to conversions, Google uses the Top Conversion Paths report. When using Google Analytics, this is the first report you’ll see in the new Multi Channel Tracking section. This can show both the interaction between multiple channels, say a user first visiting through social media then directly, as well as multiple instances of the same channel, for instance two organic searches before the conversion was made. This data can become more specific, allowing you to look at data down to the level of individual keywords. You can even group these into meaningful sets that allow you to see what type of visitors are making conversions when you’re measuring conversion tracking. For instance, you could group those searching for the name of your site together under a ‘Brand Search’ label and see how important your brand is to overall conversion versus searches that involve generic keywords relating to your product or other marketing channels, something which previously was unavailable when using Google Analytics for ROI marketing.
One of the most important steps in multi channel tracking is the initial first interaction. This is how a user initially visits your site before ultimately making a conversion. This is important both in measuring the effectiveness of these initial interactions and seeing what paths that follow them lead to higher conversions. This way you can put more of your effort in ROI marketing towards these initial interactions as well as optimise your website for each path to interact with the user in the way which, several steps of the path later, will lead to a conversion. For example, this data may give you the insight that users initially visiting from one keyword make most conversions after visiting your site from a social network further down the path, so giving you an incentive to promote your social media profiles more to these users on their landing page.
Google Analytics now also provides a report listing each channel and their overall conversions, their final-channel conversions and their amount of assisted conversions as well as a ratio between them. This data is great for working out the overall effectiveness of each part of your ROI marketing, but can require Google Analytics training in order to understand the importance of each of these. The data in this report alone only gives an impression of each channel in the overall multi channel tracking rather than the interaction between them which is key to understanding the channel path users take in your conversion tracking, enabling you to gain a much better understanding of how to improve your ROI marketing strategy.